Home > technical, uml > “As-Built” Vs “Build-To”

“As-Built” Vs “Build-To”

The figure below shows one (way too common) approach for developing computer programs. From an “understanding” in your head, you just dive into the coding state and stay there until the program is “done“. When it finally is “done“: 1) you load the code into a reverse engineering tool, 2) press a button, and voila, 3) your program “As-Built” documentation is generated.

For trivial programs where you can hold the entire design in your head, this technique can be efficient and it can work quite well. However, for non-trivial programs, it can easily lead to unmaintainable BBoMs. The problem is that the design is “buried” in the code until after the fact – when it is finally exposed for scrutiny via the auto-generated “as-built” documentation.

With a dumb-ass reverse engineering tool that doesn’t “understand” context or what the pain points in a design are, the auto-generated documentation is often overly detailed, unintelligible, camouflage in which a reviewer/maintainer can’t see the forest for the trees. But hey, you can happily tick off the documentation item on your process checklist.

Two alternative, paygo types of development approaches are shown below. During development, the “build-to” design documentation and the code are cohesively produced manually. Only the important design constructs are recorded so that they aren’t buried in a mass of detail and they can be scrutinized/reviewed/error-corrected in real-time during development – not just after the fact.

I find that I learn more from the act of doing the documentation than from pushing an “auto-generate” button after the fact. During the effort, the documentation often speaks to me – “there’s something wrong with the design here, fix me“.

Design is an intimate act of communication between the creator and the created – Unknown

Of course, for developers, especially one dimensional extreme agilista types who have no desire to “do documentation” or learn UML, the emergence of reverse engineering tools has been a Godsend. Bummer for the programmer, the org he/she works for, the customer, and the code.

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